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Vincent Lloyd

Vincent Lloyd’s chapter considers the role of natural law in African American perspectives on law and justice. He begins by discussing the place of natural law ideas in the thought of three prominent African American political leaders: Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Lloyd argues that the embrace of natural law by these thinkers lies squarely within the mainstream of black political thought and activism. Furthermore, it suggests a distinctive way of understanding the concept that is characteristic of African American communities. Black natural law, for Lloyd, involves reflection on human nature to draw normative conclusions. However, this reflection does not take place individually or abstractly, but occurs within communities. Furthermore, black natural law challenges the reduction of human nature to reason, embracing the complexity and ineffability of human existence. The ineffability of human nature, Lloyd argues, provides the basis for a natural law critique of racist, gendered, or other exclusionary legal boundaries. This critique can then be extended to laws that prevent people from accessing their human nature - for example by denying them food, housing, health care, education, and security.